Joy: lilacs in the rain

I admit it.

I don’t “get” joy.

At least not the sort of joy that’s been preached and re-preached over the last several decades.
You know–joy comes in the morning and joy isn’t the same thing as happiness because joy comes from God and you can have joy 24/7/365 if you’re really following Him.
I’ve walked around this round ball of dirt for close to 40 years now. I’ve seen friends lose children. Spouses lose spouses. Predators ravage the lives of the innocent.
Many are the times I’ve seen folks, knees bent to the earth, heart spilling over the waterfall of ever-falling pain.
Joy, in those moments, is elusive.


I did a little research–my own, ignorant, probably inaccurate research–into the background of instances when joy is mentioned in the Bible. Indeed, the Bible mentions joy 50-60 times. 
But I couldn’t find any verses where God or Jesus or Paul or David talk about joy being a necessary constant in the life of a believer. (Some one with a degree in theology feel free to correct me here.) Rather, Jesus lists it along with the fruit of the spirit.  
Interesting, joy and all those other lofty characteristics.

Jesus compares them to fruit.

Fruit is seasonal. Fruit ripens. Fruit can miss a season if it frosts at just the right time in the growth process. Fruit flowers then buds then grows and ripens. And it only does this once or twice a year.
Maybe that was Jesus’ point. Maybe He knew how delicious the fruit of joy is, but maybe He also knew how difficult and fleeting it could be for us sorry bunch of humans.
And take David. Sure, he sang plenty of psalms about joy. But he sang plenty of others about pain. Ok, so sometimes David talks himself into joy in the last couple stanzas. But sometimes, he just laments. Sometimes he just rants about how much life hurts

Because sometimes, it does.

In John 16:20-22 (Amplified version), Jesus says this about joy:

I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that you shall weep and grieve, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she gives birth to a child, has grief (anguish, agony) because her time has come. But when she has delivered the child, she no longer remembers her pain (trouble, anguish) because she is so glad that a man (a child, a human being) has been born into the world. 
So for the present you are also in sorrow (in distress and depressed); but I will see you again and [then] your hearts will rejoice, and no one can take from you your joy (gladness, delight).
In Strong’s Greek definition, joy is more like something we receive, like a sunrise, implying we can’t make it happen.
Moreover, the root word, chairo, means to thrive and be well.
Plants can thrive and grow without showing fruit for a long while. 

Perhaps you can relate.

This morning, after two days of long, hard, rain, my lilacs are blooming.

They’re in season.

Their sweet fragrance floats in the kitchen. 
Reminds me of  that old song: Joy and pain. Sunshine and rain.
Today, and often times, joy is a peony waiting to burst and lilacs in the rain.
And I don’t think Jesus minds that. 

I don’t think He minds that at all.

 As long as I grab the joy and hold it for a while, sinking my face into the sweet fragrance of its blossoms, letting the juice of it run out the corners of my mouth and laughing all the while, the next time He sends some my way.


cool relentless

driving  pounding cleansing

river stream ocean heaven

running waiting hoping

fleeting lasting


26 thoughts on “Joy: lilacs in the rain

  1. Amy, We have a gi-normous lilac bush that smells incredible right now. I picked a bunch of the flower things and put them in a dish on the middle of our kitchen table.

    We also have a bird’s nest in our pear tree with 2 baby robins in it, all fuzzy and cute.

    It’s amazing how such simple things can provide so much joy.

  2. For years I struggled with this. But now that I have been through the hardest year of my life and have stepped through a doorway to joy, I know something new.

    Somehow, joy happens outside of the other things. The joy is in His presence. When I am in His presence, it is the air I breathe.

    1. Cassandra–you are so right. Joy does happen outside the other things. Thank God! Emily–thank you! Curtis–so golad you took a moment to stop and “pick a bunch of the flower things.” And tracie–sometimes struggling–I know, right?!?

  3. Well, I’ll add my Amen. I really like your idea of joy having a season since it’s a fruit of the Spirit. I can’t just plug into a Jesus-themed “joy channel” and ignore everything else. The blessing for me lately, as I mourn the passing of my mom, is that I can experience both sadness and joy in the same minute.

  4. Entirely beautiful. I just found you via Chatting at the Sky and so glad I did. I’ve been thinking a lot of these similar thoughts lately. Thanks for the reminder that mine is not the only mind swirling!

  5. That was so well said. Thank you. It was also validating to hear someone else say that joy was elusive. I have been feeling like that quite a bit lately. To think that fruit comes in seasons, but is not always ripe or ready is an ultimately encouraging concept. Thank you.

  6. Amy- one of those a-ha moments in this post!!! I really like your pointing out joy as a fruit of the Spirit, and that fruit is seasonal. Also, the realization that joy and pain and all the positive/negative emotions are all in the same cup. Your words remind me of how so often what we most pursue eludes us because its not catchable that way. We cant catch happiness or joy or pleasure and bottle them up and grab them anytime we want. Good stuff Amy yet again!!

  7. Okay, before I read your post, I have to tell you that I was singing “Laughter in the Rain” by Neil Sedaka when I saw the title. Just thought I’d share.

    Almost done reading – I love that song, Joy (Joy) and Pain (Pain), (come on, come on) Like sunshine (sunshine) and rain (rain).

    Sorry. I’m in a really goofy mood right now…

    Ahhh…finished reading. So beautifully written. I think being a Christian makes pain more difficult because we’re lead to believe that we lack faith if we feel pain. But I know that’s not true.

    Overall, I would say this post was ADDelightful!

  8. I’ve learned a long time ago, to cherish the sorrow in my life and know that joy is waiting for me just around the corner. I’t’s impossible to have one without the other. God knows what He is doing! 🙂

  9. love this Amy – for so long I’ve said that in the midst of my grief I struggle to see real joy – and in the presence of my God – I get those glimpses of a kinda of joy that comes from knowing I’m a child of God and that there is a purpose for which He made me who I am. Joy comes to me, but in a way that most people don’t understand, unless you’ve lost so much and still can see through the murky waters of mourning can you know the true meaning of joy.

  10. Good thinking. And encouraging that I don’t somehow have to always look sweet when times are tough. Back in the late ’60s I knew a woman who had a great commitment to the Lord, no question. But my biggest challenge with her — and I was much younger than she — was that if I said something about family problems or someone who was very sick or dying, she would automatically say, “Praise the Lord.” [Obviously, she didn’t understand the scriptures about “weeping with those who weep.”] Her intent was good, but I simply hid from her when things weren’t “joyful” because I didn’t want to end up nailed about my lack thereof. Anyhow, you hit some of this very clearly… Right on.

    1. Thanks, Joanne, so very much. I think that’s SOOO the over-riding theme: weep with those who weep; mourn with those who mourn; there’s a time for everything and season for everything under Heaven. Now THAT’s something I can praise God for! I heard Amy Grant’s song,
      “Better than a Hallelujah,” today, and it says, “Beautiful, the mess we are.” Not “beautiful when we’re fixed,” or “beautiful when we’re happy,” or “better when we’re okay with the crud going on around us.” God is good with us, and we are “hallelujahs” to Him, indeed, in broken and in healed . . . in all times. Amen?

  11. I really appreciate your honesty is sharing your struggle, then release, then acceptance of this concept. I love the way you wrote this post–refreshing!

    I’m sorry we had technical difficulties and it took so long, but I finally got this wonderful post included in THE BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE. The current issue was just published at my blog. Thanks so much for joining us, Amy, and thanks for your patience!

  12. Joy can be here one second and gone the next. When it is here, it can be glorious. Memories can bring joy. The sound of a child’s laughter can bring joy. Joy can come in a moment of sharing comfort with a friend. Joy can fill your heart hope of a better tomorrow. As fleeting as joy can be, it is what keeps us moving forward, searching for that next moment of joy. Hope you are having a glorious, joy filled day.

  13. This post reminds me of the childhood song,”I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart . . .” Sometimes it’s tucked away so deep inside of me that I’m unaware of it–until it pops up unexpectedly.

    Joy is like a little pilot light inside my soul which burns steadily. So many times over the decades I’ve thought that joy has deserted me but I’ve discovered it’s more a matter of its being muffled through the sorrows and worries of life.

    In the presence of Jesus is joy unspeakable; we have only to maintain our connection with Him rather than focusing on joy for its own sake.

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